HAMILTON, Canada—Fiona Blaikie, Dean of the Faculty of Education at Brock University in St. Catherines, brought her daughter Sophie to see Shen Yun Performing Arts at Hamilton Place on Saturday and said it was an enjoyable evening and a very special outing.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Ms. Blaikie as she introduced Sophie. “As you can see, I have a daughter adopted from China, so for her as well, it’s very special. She just turned 11—this is her birthday outing.”
“It’s really good. I really liked the costumes. They are fun,” Sophie said of the renowned classical Chinese dance and music production.
With a Ph.D. from the Department of Visual and Performing Arts in Education at the University of British Columbia, Ms. Blaikie is not only an internationally recognized scholar in art education but also a practicing artist whose work has been exhibited internationally and is held in collections around the world.
Spectacular, Panoramic Backdrops
With this expertise, she had high praise to give to Shen Yun for its state-of-the-art digital projection. Shen Yun’s animated backdrops are designed to complement and synchronize with every aspect of each dance and song, including the colours, costumes, storyline, dance movements, music, lighting, and audio effects.
I think it’s very clever, the use of technology combined with the dancing and performing.
Some of the dances feature characters descending from the screen onto the stage and vice versa.
“We liked the technical effects where the people disappear into the movie. I think it’s very clever, the use of technology combined with the dancing and performing,” Ms. Blaikie said.
“Beautiful, I find them very spectacular and panoramic. It’s nice to get a sense of seeing Mongolia, comparing it with the palace, comparing it with different landscapes gives you a sense of China.”
She noted that the show is certainly giving Sophie a sense of the culture, as she was very young when she came to Canada.
Fabulous Costumes and Colours
“The costumes are stunning and the dancing is amazing,” Ms. Blaikie added, also complimenting the use of colour throughout the production.
Fabulous, just amazing, they are not colours that you’d normally put together, but they look amazing and I think it’s very professional.
“Fabulous, just amazing, they are not colours that you’d normally put together, but they look amazing and I think it’s very professional,” she said.
New York-based Shen Yun was founded in 2006 by a group of overseas Chinese artists who wished to restore and revive Chinese traditional culture, which has been all but completely demolished following more than 60 years of communist rule in China, according to the company’s website.
Shen Yun has three touring companies, each with a live orchestra, that travel the globe every year with an all-new lineup of classical Chinese dance, Chinese ethnic and folk dance, and original songs and musical scores.
‘You get a real sense about the culture’
Shen Yun’s vocal soloists use the bel canto operatic technique while singing Chinese lyrics, which are displayed on the backdrop in both Chinese and English.
Many audience members have remarked that they are touched by the deep layers of meaning in the lyrics and their philosophical reflection about human life.
The songs that are sung are beautiful, but seeing the translations into English gives you a sense of the philosophy of the Chinese way of being.
Ms. Blaikie counted among those people. She noted that the lyrics were part of the educational value of Shen Yun.
“One of the things that I really liked was the translation of the words in the songs,” she said.
“The songs that are sung are beautiful, but seeing the translations into English gives you a sense of the philosophy of the Chinese way of being, the sense of history and context, and the past, the present, and the future—the idea of luck and the idea of being in the right place at the right time, but also the idea of hard work.
“So I think you get a real sense about the culture.”
Ms. Blaikie said the song that touched her the most was one by soprano Pi-ju Huang, “which spoke of the ancient people and about the divine spirit.”
“I thought that was very beautiful,” she said.
The educational value also happens in other ways, “unexpected ways,” Ms. Blaikie said, such as “seeing the Mongolian countryside, and the costumes, the people dancing with the bowls on their heads, … seeing the monks.”
Ms. Blaikie’s awards and honours include the Canadian Society for Education through Art Affiliate Award for Ontario, and work as Deputy Chief Examiner of Visual Arts for the International Baccaluareate Organization.
She created the award-winning Community Arts and Heritage Education Project in Northern Ontario, a program that has become a model for community arts programming in the province.
Reporting by Christina Gao and Cindy Chan
New York-based Shen Yun Performing Arts has three touring companies that perform simultaneously around the world. Shen Yun’s New York Company will play three shows in Hamilton on Jan. 12-13 before going on to Toronto for five shows, completing its tour of eastern Canada. For more information, visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org
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